Home Is Far from Where I Stand

side i. Things get muddled monsoon season.
prickled pears grow over mother’s war-watered peonies, andw
e pour rice wine down in gulps,
anesthesia for the soft slices of sun that cut through skin.
It burns against throats gaping, gushing, cauterizes them in country colors.
Grandmother prides her tradition ing old lashes, good men and gods,
times are changing, and change is all we have to cross an ocean.

Father says it’s a long shot, no shot—but one shot
is all it takes to fall, snake oil lips parted against red silk banner,
so we leave on the backs of bamboo-bone baskets,
wash away the grief and clinging sticky rice with orange brine.
Sing a hymn for the dead, say the others. Flee from this flag,
and let your mouth bleed with absolution.

side ii. Here in America my brother is your grocer, his onions on asphalt,
a cent, just a cent—scents of the monsoon and fennel pyres.
Mother plucks fat plums for the children,
bright bruises of color, skin spread taught against bare bones sweet.
We sink into pitted fruit like mother’s arms, blooms of pocked tension,
and we are all hungrier from the scrabble forwards.

Here, we join a hundred churches, send a thousand cathedral prayers,
but they say for our kind, it’s always a kind-of balance
between corner-street violence and the kindness that seems so forgone.
When at the convenience store counter, the tip-jar pennies wink
and countless thank-you bags become emblems of thanks to America.
After all, in this country, we can be so unkind to ourselves that
we forget how our names are spoken off the lips of kin,
consign ourselves to the gaps between grandmother’s hymns,
and pray we do not stay grounded to the places we have left.

Gloria Wang

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All poems are copyrighted 2019 by their respective authors and may not be used elsewhere without their express permission.